With newspapers literally shrinking and the world of online film opinions exploding, bona-fide critics find that their value is being challenged.
But the interesting thing is, they seem to be getting more in touch with the public.
This year, unlike past summers, reviewers seem to actually like the big blockbusters.
Film critics have a reputation for championing difficult and obscure pics and turning up their noses at populist fare.
Last summer, the highest grossing pics included “Spider-Man 3,” “Transformers” and the third “Pirates of the Caribbean.” All were lamented by the critics, but the audience ignored the warnings.
Two summers ago, it was a similar situation, with “The Da Vinci Code” (an approval rating of 10% on Rotten Tomatoes’ top critic meter), the second “Pirates” and the third “X-Men.”
This year, in contrast, reviewers lapped up Paramount’s “Iron Man,” which received a 92% approval rating. Warner Bros.’ “Dark Knight” received a 90% positive rating.
And Disney-Pixar’s “Wall-E” is the best reviewed film of the summer (97%), if not the year.
Like the public, critics rejected “Speed Racer” and “Meet Dave” (29% each). But “The Love Guru” took the prize with a jaw-dropping approval of 6%.
Studio execs say tentpoles are often “review proof,” but concede that a new property like “Iron Man” can benefit from a little love from critics.
And positive notices can help with a film’s longterm playability, for no other reason than they support (or reflect) good word-of-mouth.
The debate in Hollywood will probably never end regarding critics, and how much they really matter. One thing’s for sure — seeing their reviews in actual print may get more and more difficult.